BlackBerry Storms Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Networks

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Network operators Vodafone and Verizon Wireless will sell Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm smartphone from next month, the companies said Wednesday.

The Storm will be available from Vodafone in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Romania, Spain, Italy, France (via partner SFR), India, Australia and New Zealand from next month, and from Verizon Wireless in the U.S.

With a touchscreen interface, the largest screen size ever on a BlackBerry device and a long list of features, the Storm will be a worthy competitor to Apple's iPhone all over the world, according to Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight.

Pricing will be announced in the coming weeks, according to RIM.

The Storm is the first touch-screen BlackBerry device and has what RIM calls a "clickable" screen: The user feels the screen being pressed and released, similar to the feeling of a key on a physical keyboard or a button on a mouse, which should make it easier to type, according to RIM.

The touchscreen technology is very impressive, according to Wood, who describes the 3.26-inch, 480 by 360 pixel screen as a big key. "They have reinvented the touchscreen with the Storm. It's not as good as a qwerty keyboard but it comes close," he said.

That doesn't make it better than the iPhone touchscreen interface, but it is a credible competitor, according to Wood.

The Storm has 1G byte of built-in memory and a microSD card slot that can hold up to 16G bytes of additional storage. Pictures can be captured using the 3.2-megapixel camera, which has auto focus and a flash.

Research In Motion clearly has Apple in its sights, as it highlights that the Storm comes with a removable battery, support for MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and turn-by-turn satellite navigation, all of which the iPhone currently lacks.

The Storm measures 112.5 millimeters x 62.2 mm x 13.95 mm and weighs 155 grams, compared to 115.5 mm x 62.1 mm x 12.3 mm and 133 grams for the iPhone.

Users can surf the web and download email using either EV-DO Rev. A or HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access), but there is no Wi-Fi.

"If there is one shortcoming with the Storm it's the lack of Wi-Fi, but that is a price I'd be willing to pay," said Wood.

The reason for the exclusion is a combination of technology and politics: there isn't much room left inside the phone and both Verizon and Vodafone are pushing mobile broadband, so the incentive to include Wi-Fi is low, according to Wood.

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